Pelago Ambassador – Martin Paldan

Many of our followers have seen photos of Martin, but let us introduce you the fellow behind these pictures. Creative mind, pancake meet-up creator and what else.

Hey Martin! Can you introduce yourself shortly?
My name is Martin Paldan. I’m 48 years old and living in Copenhagen, Denmark. I work full time as a photographer for a Danish brand called GripGrab. I regard myself as a creative human being. Both in terms of producing stuff, but also in my mindset; I like to reflect about how I get most out of life. Not in terms of quantity, but in terms of quality. Riding bikes and producing visual content are my main hobbies. I also enjoy making amateur cycling videos and I get full on creative with making my own music for these videos.

So, why cycling?
Well, I like the fact that it is a sustainable form of transport. I use my own energy and I connect to my surroundings by pedalling of into the countryside or forest. Getting tired or excited is a part of cycling, that makes me feel my body and my psychic energy. The experience of flow through the landscape is the best feeling ever and is what we all look for constantly: The feeling of being right here, right now, forgetting about time, and just being present. Nothing can replace that feeling, and once it’s over, we want to go there again. Cycling has taught me that this feeling does indeed exist beyond the ride. The feeling of being present and in a state of flow, is a mindset you can develop and have it ´with´ you all the time.

Have you always been riding or how did you get in the saddle in the first place?
I have always been riding a bike. That´s a normal thing for us Danish people. Kids grow up with a bike, but I only started riding ´seriously´ a few years ago. Before that, cycling was ´just´ a means of transport. Now it is a way of living. I ride my bike to all the places I go (I don’t have a car), and enjoy doing bike rides, in the same manner as other people do meditation, exercise, walk, yoga, drugs or whatever; To be present, to feel alive and to be a better human being. I honestly believe and sense that I become more compassionate, friendly, easy going and less stressed from riding my bike.

How do you find time for riding?I mean, from what I see, you are always on the saddle! Do share your secret.
Hah, I guess the secret is to only show riding photos! No, honestly, I don’t ride that much in distance compared to others, but I ride pretty frequently; short joy-rides to the forest, looking for Forgotten Giants, around the city. And I also enjoy doing ´detour´ morning rides to work. Instead of going the straight fast way, I do a detour to the forest, ride a mountain bike trail and then ride to work. It is the best way to start the day! I love my morning rides. You get in such a good mood, and the work I do after a morning ride, is of much better quality!

You described that “The Birth of the Gravel Bike” was a major turning point for you.
I am not competitive at all, and don’t find any enjoyment or value in comparing my efforts with other people’s efforts. When I tried road cycling, I quickly aborted and found it very narrow minded. No room for personal development or inclusiveness. It was old school and the enjoyment was not very flexible. But with the Birth of the Gravel Bike, I suddenly had a chance to define my own way of riding: No rules, no history, no ´right way or wrong way´. So, I embraced it, and I’m having a blast just doing what feels right for me!

You have been organising “Pancake meet-ups” around Copenhagen.
The main idea behind the Pancake Meet-up is to simply create a shared moment of being outdoors around a fire. I don’t really want to take the role of being a ´host´, so I do my best to create a flat hierarchy where everybody is welcome to take action. I simply create the frame. Then it is up to people to use it as they like, and get the best out of it. For me, making pancakes on a bonfire comes very naturally, but for a lot of people it is quite ´exotic´ and some people might not even know how to do it, so I’m also aware of the ´come and try – We will help each other´ aspect. People who show up are always positive, happy and excited – It’s a great way of meeting people and making new friends.

Not to mention your Cycling in Copenhagen blog. Can you tell a few words about it?
That’s a good example of not being very strategic 🙂 I only post when I feel like it… Anyway, the website is a service to like-minded people. I had a fellow Pelago friend visiting Copenhagen and when we met at a café he told me how he enjoyed cycling on the streets of Copenhagen, but only rode the most ´classic´ places as he didn´t know where to go. That statement gave birth to the website; I had tons of adventurous routes in Copenhagen I could freely share, and quickly put together a website with Google Maps, Strava and GPX files of my favorites routes. I really didn’t have the time to maintain the promotion part, so I hope that riders visiting Copenhagen will find the website via Google. Maybe one day I will pick it up again – It has great potential.

Any big riding plans or dreams for the near future?
This Covid-19 has stopped a few plans, like to visit Finland for the Nordic Gravel Series. Hopefully next time. Right now I have skipped all plans, and simply make up plans as I get inspired. I think all cyclists dream of big plans, but to be honest I’m at a position in my life, where I value my morning rides as much as a multiday bikepacking adventures. I don´t need to prove anything, and I’m very aware to go where my inspiration brings me.

Besides being a passionate rider, you are also a photographer. A profession or more of a hobby?
Both. I work as a professional photographer, but also highly enjoy shooting randomly while out riding. I guess it’s a bit of cliché, but I like to express myself through my photos. As much as a bike ride is a physical manifestation – it is as much (for me) a creative space I enter. A space of discovering, exploring and inventing myself. But it’s honestly not part of a bigger strategy – I’m only good at strategies when at work – Personally I don´t work with strategies – I play by heart and soul and go with the ideas that resonate with my feelings.

Thanks for the interview Martin and all the best for 2022!
Thanks guys!

Martin is riding Pelago Stavanger Outback which he has customised for his purposes. See more of Martins photography and cycling adventures in Instagram:

 @yellowhatphoto  |  @cyclingincopenhagen

Photos: Martin Paldan, Mikkel M. Beisner